Good morning! It’s Thursday, August 26, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 439 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,167 days away.
The latest: Afghanistan evacuations continue as deadline looms
The United States has just a handful of days to finish evacuating Americans out of Afghanistan before the looming August 31 deadline to withdraw from the country. Here’s the latest:
— The final evacuations have been interrupted by a security threat at the Kabul airport. “Because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan said in new guidance on Wednesday.
Although the U.S. did not specify the threat, CNN reported that intelligence agencies were tracking “a very specific threat stream” from ISIS about planned attacks outside the airport.
— About 1,500 Americans are left in Afghanistan, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The U.S. is hurriedly trying to make contact with many of them before the August 31 deadline arrives: Blinken said that the State Department is in contact with 500 of the Americans and trying to evacuate them, while the status of the other 1,000 remains unclear.
Meanwhile, at least 250,000 Afghans who may be eligible for expedited American visas remain in the country, according to a New York Times estimate, meaning the U.S. will likely only be able to evacuate a small fraction of those Afghans who assisted with the American military efforts in the past 20 years.
— More members of Congress are reportedly trying to go to Afghanistan. The U.S. is trying to get American citizens out of Kabul, but some lawmakers are trying to get in. Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) made a rogue visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, sparking rebukes from congressional leaders and the Defense Department.
According to the Washington Post, two other lawmakers attempted to follow Moulton and Meijer there on Wednesday. “The official said the House members, whose names could not be confirmed, were in Europe and had requested passage to Afghanistan,” the Post reported. “The Pentagon rejected the request, the official said.”
More news you should know.
January 6 investigation: A congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol issued its first demands for documents from government agencies on Wednesday, including communications involving some of former President Donald Trump’s closest advisers and family.” Reuters
- Happening tonight at 6:30pm ET: The officer who shot and killed protestor Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 attack will publicly reveal his identity for the first time in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
Coronavirus: “In another alarming reminder of how the Delta variant has shifted the realities of the pandemic, COVID hospitalizations in the United States passed the 100,000 mark on Wednesday for the first time since January, when several thousand Americans were dying every day of the coronavirus.” New York Magazine
- “Federal regulators are likely to approve a Covid-19 booster shot for vaccinated adults starting at least six months after the previous dose rather than the eight-month gap they previously announced, a person familiar with the plans said, as the Biden administration steps up preparations for delivering boosters to the public.” Wall Street Journal
Your questions, answered.
Q: Why was the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine so long-delayed? What is the protocol for vaccine approval? — James G. from Sarasota, FL
A: The FDA has a multi-layered process for offering full approval to vaccines. Per the agency itself, here are the main steps involved:
Completing all of those requirements takes time, and involves a lot of paperwork: Peter Marks, director of the FDA division that oversees vaccine approval, told the Washington Post that approving a vaccine for emergency use involves reviewing tens of thousands of pages — but full approval involves reviewing hundreds of thousands of pages.
So, yes, it took a lot of time and steps before the FDA could grant the Pfizer vaccine full approval earlier this week. But they actually did it with record speed compared to past approvals: the Pfizer vaccine was approved faster than any other vaccine in the FDA’s history.
While it typically takes around eight months for a vaccine to be approved, the FDA fully signed off on the Covid vaccine less than four months after Pfizer submitted its paperwork. Scientists are split on whether the agency’s timeline was the right one: some criticized the FDA for dragging their feet, others said the sped-up process set a dangerous precedent.
Do you have a question you want answered in Wake Up To Politics? Send it on over to email@example.com.
Two quick corrections: On Tuesday, I gave the wrong home state abbreviation for Rep. Josh Gottheimer, and on Wednesday, I did the same for Rep. Peter Meijer. My apologies for the typos — Gottheimer is a Democrat from New Jersey, Meijer is a Republican from Michigan.
Thanks to the readers who pointed these out.
What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
→ President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 8:30 a.m. and meet with his national security team to receive an update on Afghanistan at 9:15 a.m.
At 11:30 a.m., Biden will participate in a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. At 11:55 a.m., Biden and Bennett will participate in an expanded bilateral meeting. At 3 p.m., the president will meet virtually with a bipartisan group of governors to discuss housing and resettling Afghan refugees in the U.S.
→ Vice President Kamala Harris is currently flying from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Honolulu, Hawaii. Last night, she met with “change makers who are driving social change in Vietnam,” participated in a meet and greet at the U.S. embassy in Hanoi, and delivered remarks and took questions from the press.
At 5:20 a.m. this morning, she departed Hanoi for Honolulu. At 8:40 p.m., she is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu. At 9:20 p.m., she will participate in a troop engagement event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. At 10:40 p.m., she will depart Honolulu for San Francisco, California.
→ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12 p.m.
→ U.S. public health officials will hold their weekly COVID-19 press briefing at 10:30 a.m.
Legislative Branch → The Senate is on recess until September 13.
→ The House is on recess until September 20.
→ The Supreme Court is on recess until October 4.
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